Barrett’s Bark for the Blue Founder Mikaela Ward and her son, Barrett, along with their dog, Scout.

We’ve weathered the dog days of summer, but it’s not too late to support Tucson police K-9s.

The public has a unique opportunity to do just that from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, during Barrett’s Bark for the Blue Cornhole Tournament at Playground Tucson, 278 E. Congress St.

“This is a community-building event between the Tucson Police Department K-9 unit and the public. The dogs love attention and the officers love talking with people and it is a great way to bring everyone together while raising money to give the dogs the protection they need,” said Mikaela Ward, chair of the event and founder of Barrett’s Bark for the Blue, a new nonprofit that has teamed up with Playground Tucson to stage the fundraiser.

Ward was inspired to start the nonprofit after Bravo, a Belgian Malinois, jumped in to protect her when she was involved in a domestic dispute in 2017.

“I never would have expected Bravo would have done that. I was nicely surprised and forever grateful to her for defusing the situation and knowing the end result, I feel that working K-9s deserve all the protection that we can give them,” said Ward, who has since ended the relationship.

When Ward, who has always been a dog lover, realized that K-9 officers often respond during domestic disturbances, she knew she wanted to do something to support them.

Shortly after that, Barrett’s Bark for the Blue — named after Ward’s son, Barrett — was formed.

“He wouldn’t be the little boy he is today if it weren’t for Bravo, and he loves dogs, too,” Ward said.

“Even though he is only 2, he knows what a working dog is and has respect for human and K-9 first responders, so we thought the name was fitting.”

Ward said Tucson Police Department K-9 units have been deployed more than 1,000 times in the last 12 months, which averages out to about three deployments a day.

All K-9 officers are patrol- and narcotics-trained.

“They can search for drugs and for people and, when needed, interact,” Ward said.

The department’s K-9 unit operates on a budget of $50,000 annually, which must cover food, veterinary costs and other expenses for eight dogs.

“That may sound like a good chunk of money, but when you start adding up all the expenses, it is stretched very thin ... and they want to add another K-9 this year and we want to help cover the budget so they can do that,” said Ward.

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The budget has been especially taxed by the illness of K-9 Nova, who was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

Ward said that fundraising efforts are focused on offsetting some of those costs and raising money toward new bulletproof/stabproof vests — which start at $1,500 each — and other protective paw and face gear for the dogs.

In addition to the upcoming cornhole tournament, the nonprofit has just published a calendar with the help of local photographers Michael Kloth and Reena Giola.

The July 2019 to December 2020 TPD K-9 Calendar sells for $18 and is available at tucne.ws/1aee

“I really wanted to get cool pictures of the dogs and show people that these are beautiful and well-trained dogs, but they are also just dogs,” she said.

“They are sometimes funny and goofy and want to chase balls and play tug of war, like all dogs.

“I thought people needed to see that and also see that they love their jobs and are excited to go to work. We really wanted to showcase that,” Ward said.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net